Here we discuss all things transitions for screenwriting. We cover what a transition is, why we use transitions and what each type of transition is and when to use these correctly.
What is a transition?
A transition in film (and in your screenplay) is a technique used in post production to combined different shots and scenes. The most common transition is “Cut to” – a simple cut to the next shot/scene.
Why do we need transitions?
We need these to help tell the story in the movie and to ensure a smooth transaction between shots and scenes. Transitions were initially used in the script to help the post production team when editing the footage.
Remember to use the big transitions to show an integral moment in your screenplay, when you want the reader to really notice the transition and read in depth the key scene.
Screenplay transition list:
- Cut to
- Dissolve to
- Fade in
- Fade out
- Fade to
- Jump Cut to
- Match cut to
- Smash cut to
- Wipe to
- Time cut
This is the most common out of all transitions. It’s a simple transition used to imply a change in scenes.
Dissolve to is where one scene ends and fades another scene fades into place. It’s one of the most difficult transitions to perfect and usually leads to a key scene or shot in the movie. It’s definitely an art form and you’ll find it used in a contemporary style more often than not.
READ MORE: 7 screenwriting tips for beginners
Fade to/Fade in/Fade out
These three transitions re rarely used now within a screenplay. These have now been replaced by the more complex transition to highlight a key scene or shot. However, anything that you will usually find the fade in at the start of the screenplay and fade out at the end of a screenplay.
Jump cut to
This transition isn’t used in the same format as most. It’s used to show a jump in time between each jump cut. The shots are usually sequential with one key factor changing in each shot to show the progression in time.
A great example of this can be found here: Jump Cut
Match cut to
A match cut is a transition in which the two shots are matched together. This is an interesting transition which can help you lead into a key scene with a smooth transaction. This is one of our favourites, it’s a really creative transition which can help form your style. A great example of this is – a character may be holding a specific object whilst transitioning, into the next holding something similar but in a different environment.
A great example video can be found here: Match cut examples
Smash cut to
A Smash cut is an extremely technical transition. It’s great for creating an unexpected dramatic effect within your film. You can use this perfectly by cutting from one extreme to the other to give the audience an idea of the extremity of the scene they’ve just witnessed.
This transition is as simple as it sounds. It’s a wipe from one side of the frame to the other, transitioning into the next scene.
An example can be seen here: Star Wars wipe transition
These usually take place in the same location but with different characters to show the difference in time. There are multiple ways to film this whether it’s with a montage style, showing the character passing time, or changing the characters in the location. This will give the audience an idea that time is passing.
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*For more examples check out the transition 101 video HERE.